Can one date beauty or say of plants just when they are ready to take their rightful place in the garden world?
I believe we can in the case of lilies. These lovely, hardy, easy-to-grow plants have come a long way from the species collected in the wild.
They have had a difficult transition period. Finally, they have emerged as full-fledged, reliable garden ornaments and are dependable and worthwhile.
Primarily American, contribution to horticulture. As a garden plant, the lily has come of age.
New Evaluations Of Cultural Practices
Our garden lilies of today were born in a period of far-reaching changes in cultural practices, techniques, and tools.
As they were being developed, new chemicals were discovered for the following purposes:
- Combat pests and diseases
- Prevent damping-off of seedlings
- Control weeds
- Stimulate root growth
New evaluations were made of cultural practices. Improved, often radically changed, growing and packing methods and materials were adopted.
An improved product evolved, superior because of new characteristics, such as hybrid vigor, making it more tolerant to widely varying soil and climatic conditions.
Better, too, because new methods and materials were found to protect the plants en route from the growers’ fields to the dealers’ storage rooms and your gardens.
Simple Lily Requirements
Deliveries were timed for optimum results, and, last but not least, gardeners were becoming more and more aware of the simple requirements of the lily:
- Rich soil
- Perfect drainage
This change, apparently, from an erratic, demanding, and often unmanageable wild plant to a dependable, well-behaved one, happened in a shorter period than any other comparable plant Family.
It resulted from years of preparation, long periods of arduous exploration, of many failures and disappointments.
Now that the battle is over, it is gratifying to look around and survey what has been achieved briefly.
Introduction Of Beautiful Lily Strains
In 1924, around 100 years ago, Dr. David Griffiths selected and named his now-famous Bellingham Hybrid lilies.
Eighty-five years ago, the Office of Foreign Plant Introduction of the Bureau of Plant Industry received a tiny lily seed from China.
This seed, which proved to be a tremendous strain of Lilium Leucanthemum, became the basis for the fine trumpet lilies available.
It was also just 100 years ago that Monsieur Dehras obtained the seeds from which much later came the beautiful strains of Aurelian lilies after many years of fruitless work.
The Preston Hybrids also first flowered some 100 years ago, as did some of Isabella Preston’s and Dr. Skinner’s fine Canadian-bred introductions.
Today, hardy garden lilies are freely available–new hybrids in exciting forms and colors, reinvigorating species, and strong-growing mutations.
We have lilies for summer and fall, greenhouse forcing and outside planting, garden decoration, and cutting.
They result from the work of many devoted growers, plant explorers, and botanists.
New Scientific Advances For Lily Plant Breeding
When distance is no longer a barrier, new advances made in New Zealand or Australia one year can be made available to growers in other countries the next.
Using the latest scientific knowledge of plant breeding, the hybridizers can speed up their work and obtain seed with a far higher percentage of improvement than earlier workers’ hit-and-miss methods.
The lily lagged behind many other garden plants, not in popularity, for there has never been a more beloved or well-known flower, but in actual availability as good, vigorous garden plants.
Compare it with other popular plant families.
As we know them today, the daffodils date from 1887, when those famous varieties, Madame de Graaff and Glory of Leiden, were exhibited in London and received a First Class Certificate from the Royal Horticultural Society.
Our modern garden tulips may well, and he said to date from 1899 when the first Darwin tulips were introduced into commerce by Messrs. Krelage & Son of Haarlem, the Netherlands.
Our bearded iris’s history dates from the beginning of our century, while hybrid roses are somewhat, but not much, older.
The first hybrid tea rose, La France, was originated in 1867, while the well-known rambler rose, Crimson Rambler, introduced into this country in 1895; Dorothy Perkins in 1901.
The New Lily–No Longer Difficult To Grow
Those lilies that recently came of age were a boon to gardeners and commercial growers.
A broader knowledge of genetics and plant physiology, coupled with the development of new tools and techniques for growing, enabled growers to brush aside the cobwebs of superstition and old wives’ tales that had made the lily a reputedly tricky plant to grow.
There was also a sobering influence since the growers could see the grave mistake of the iris, daffodil, rose, and tulip breeders in naming far too wide varieties.
It was not in vain that the leading lily breeders halted the indiscriminate naming and introduction of every slight variant before it had stood the test of time and competition.
The result of their campaign is already noticeable. What is offered by front-most American sources today is excellent.
The hybrid lily then has come of age. It is now a dependable, hardy garden plant of unusual merit.
The great variety of forms and colors and the flowering season’s length, extending as it does from May to November, make it a garden plant to be reckoned with.
Wide Selection Of New Age Lilies
The selection is available now–whether this is in the softly colored Aurelian types, or the blazing Mid-Century Hybrids, the pure and stately Olympic Hybrids, the Fiestas in their glowing colors, the warm-toned Golden Chalice, or the sparkling Bellinghams – is one that can be counted on for acceptable behavior.
These lilies, though new, are already thoroughly tested under garden conditions. They are exciting.
As no other plant can do it, they give character to the summer garden. Use them by themselves in large beds or combine them with other flowers in the herbaceous border.
Their graceful form and colors look well, too, contrasted against evergreen foliage.
What is ahead of us in lilies?
We may expect variants on the themes we already have.
Each one is critically appraised and markedly better than what we have now.
New combinations of color and form with still greater tolerance to abuse, vigor, and increased inbred resistance to pests and diseases.
We know the material we have to build with, the species that have come to us front the four corners of the world, and their sturdy hybrids already with us.
Bringing the golden color of the Aurelians and their hybrid vigor into a lovely species like Lilium curatum, Lilium platyphyllum, or Lilium speciosum rubrum is well within our reach.
The soft lilac of Lilium cernuum combined with the vigor of Lilium tigrinum may give us a new range of colors and forms
There are other such combinations already in the making. All American gardeners will welcome them.